Growing up in Pakistan during the 90s was amazing. That was the time when media was opening up and it gave us an opportunity to see the talent that was available in Pakistan.
It probably started with Shalimar Television Network (STN) and their popular Music Channel Charts. I can still remember my brother and I waiting for MCC to come on. We didn’t mind listening to the same songs week after week, as long as they were played.
What I have here is a list of songs that I personally feel defined the 90s for us growing up.
Number 11: Hadiqa Kiani – Boohey Barian (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYFjg-canyM)
I won’t lie and say I wasn’t fascinated by Hadiqa Kiani. Truth be told, she was probably the most amazing female vocalist I had grown up listening to after Nazia Hassan.
From the album Rooshni released in 1999, Boohey Barain was Hadiqa’s first Punjabi number that became a smash hit. Hadiqa is known for trying out different languages in her songs and this one really worked. She resonated with people across Pakistan and the melody was so catchy and simple that you couldn’t help but hum along.
Number 10: Awaz – Jado Ka Charagh (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eViZM66ywE0)
You would have thought that after Vital Signs and Junoon you really didn’t need another Pop/Rock Band, but apparently Haroon, Faakhir and Asad had other plans.
Now I’ll admit I wasn’t a big fan of theirs but I think Jado Ka Charagh has to be in the top ten. It was one of the few videos during those days that had a storyline to it and frankly the only one I remember that had a product placement in the form of a Pepsi Can. The choice was between this song and “Mr. Fraudiye” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4s5o43bILGk) and the popularity of JKC had to be considered.
Number 09: Fakhr-e-Alam –Bhangra Pao (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNtY_n7s18w)
Let’s face it, we were all mesmerized by the likes of Michael Jackson growing up and most of us also loved the popular culture of the west. Then suddenly a kid comes along on Pakistani television in a shredded jeans, a bandana holding a basketball but lo and behold he starts singing in Urdu and does a decent job at a moon walk! It was really a first for all of us back then and the tune was decent and the styling was incredibly awesome! For the thought alone of mixing East with West in that fashion, Fakhr-e-Alam grabs a place on the top ten list.
Number 08: Fariha Parvez – Dil Howa Boo Kata (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-r46afKEYQ)
There were only two things that defined Lahore during winters back in the 90s – one was tea and pakoras during the cold weather and then basant during February. There wasn’t a single basant that I remember that didn’t have this song at full volume played on every roof top for as far as the ears could hear!
Fariha Parvez started off doing that musical show for kids on PTV and suddenly became a household name with this amazing track. The video was simple but her acting was something out of the movies and the song was an instant hit with every age group!
Number 07: Fringe Benefits – Tanhaye (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hw6u8yfThn4)
You want to talk about one hit wonders then nothing takes the cake but Fringe Benefits with their song Tanhaye! The video was interesting to say the least and the song was hummable with simple lyrics.
The band was made up of Ali and Shehryar and although they had a couple of other songs namely “Yeh Zindagi” and a peace athem “Pyar diya gallan” with Arid Zone and Fakhr-e-Alam, their real claim to stardom was Tanhaye. Unfortunately, the two boys had to live their lives and never really made music their career. There were roamers that they were planning a comeback in 2010 but apparently I didn’t see anything so I can’t really comment on that.
Number 06: Abrar-ul-Haq – Billo (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RCfBrjphuk)
The two things Abrar has in common with Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits is that both at one stage were teachers (Abrar taught at Aitcheson school in Lahore) and that both were super-hit musicians of their times.
Billo De Ghar was a pure Punjabi track that shattered through the economic divide of Pakistan and had everyone singing the tune. There wasn’t a single wedding, bonfire, get together or even a car out there in the 90s that didn’t have this song playing at full volume!
Number 05: Sajjad Ali – Babia (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMB7ZvgfHIM)
OK so you can’t define the 90s without talking about Sajjad Ali and his Babia. This song defined Sajjad Ali as THE most versatile artist in Pakistan. He was already a household name with the elder generation due to his classical sing skills. His first album was released in 1979 and as A.R. Rehman puts it “Sajjad Ali is original crossover: From the realm of the classical into one of the brightest lights of Pakistani pop”
Honestly speaking the entire album Babia 93 – was a hit. From Babia to Bolo bolo, then there was Chal Uddja, Neeli Neeli and Kuch Larkiyan… I honestly had to buy the album twice because it was played so many times.
Number 04: Strings – Sar Kiye Yeh Pahar (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZz-codCnK4)
Strings during the 90s seemed to most as a one hit wonder band with their song Sar Kiye Yeh Pahar, but it wasn’t long when they came back strong with their album Duur in the early 2000’s. However, their ever green classic will always be this track that was released in 1992 and was written by Bilal Maqsood himself while the rest of the songs on that album were written by his legend of a father Anwar Maqsood.
Number 03: Ali Haider – Purani Jeans Aur Guitar (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbh8MkI9zo4)
I know most of you are already humming this tune in your heads. If there was a poll taken on the most nostalgic song from our pop industry, I know for a fact that PJAG would be up there! The day the video came out, it was the only thing people could talk about and sing. This is one of those songs that even our parents ended up listening to and sung along to. It captured a piece of everyone’s life and if it didn’t then people wanted to have a life that resembled the lyrics of this song in some way.
Number 02: Junoon – Jazba-e-Junoon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Que_KLQtR0k)
Junoon came along in 1990 and although they had some amazing songs from their first two albums, it wasn’t until 1996, when they released Inquilaab that we were introduced to JeJ. The song was huge hit and became the signature track for the 1996 Cricket World Cup. Whenever you wanted to get a boost in your spirits, this was the song to be played.
Even to this day, you’ll hear Junoonis and rock enthusiasts’ talk about this song as the defining moment of rock culture in Pakistan. I was always a huge Junoon fan and after JeJ, I saw a lot more people come on to the rock side of Pakistani music scene.
Number 01: Vital Signs – Dil Dil Pakistan (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHeQUtRsMLU)
This is the only song in the list that wasn’t released in the 90s but rather a year before the decade began. Nevertheless, growing up in Pakistan during the 90s, this song had a huge impact on each and everyone there. Now as much as I would like to put a Junoon song at number 1, truth be told, it cannot happen when you have DDP in the consideration set.
When kids start confusing a song for their national anthem you know it’s a huge hit! In fact in 2003, the BBC World Service conducted an international poll for the top ten songs of all time and ranked DDP at number 3! [i]
So there you have it everyone, the top 11 songs that defined the 90s for me at least growing up in Pakistan. There were definitely a lot of songs to be considered for this list and I honestly took the first one that popped up into my head, based on Top of Mind recall.